Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Stranded

The cut-rate Alien knockoff Stranded is set inside a base on the moon; it’s windowless, which is convenient because it saves the filmmakers the trouble of actually showing the lunar surface. The base doesn’t seem to have any effective overhead lighting, though it does have automatic doors that wobble, several suspiciously similar-looking hallways, and a video-log recorder that is just a foldout book light painted black. The base looks like—and may in fact be—a hospital basement with random blinking lights and calculators glued to the walls.

Inside this bargain-bin moon base, a group of only marginally more-convincing astronauts square off against a mysterious alien life-form; the alien is both a parasite and a shapeshifter, which is, again, convenient, because it means that the producers didn’t have to spend money on designing or building a monster. The astronauts speak in clunky exposition (“Shit, we really are stranded”) and fake space jargon; they sound like cop-show medical examiners narrating their own demise. Their leader is direct-to-video staple Christian Slater, who plays the role with all the commitment of a man who has just been told his lines, his eyebrows arched in perpetual disbelief. Slater is supposed to be incredulous about the existence of the alien threat, but he mostly seems incredulous about the script.

Though he’s best known for helming Battlefield Earth, director Roger Christian has a serious sci-fi résumé, having served as a set decorator on Star Wars and as an art director on Alien; the former even won him an Oscar. However, whatever talent Christian once had for creating lived-in science-fiction worlds has long since evaporated. Combined with the movie’s flagrant cheapness, his leaden direction eventually becomes mesmerizing and then, finally, endearing. Stranded is unmistakably bad, but somewhat enjoyable, especially for viewers who have a soft spot for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 favorite Space Mutiny.